Purpose: The Peruvian hake (Merluccius gayi peruanus) stock has been in a delicate state in the last decades due to overexploitation combined with adverse climatic events. The stock is showing certain signs of recovery since 2012. This work analyses the environmental impacts of current fleet operations and its likely trend. Methods: The fleet was divided into coherent segments, per holding capacity and engine power. The validity of both segmentations, as well as the presence of an effect of economies of scale driving fuel use intensity (FUI), was tested. Life cycle assessment was used to calculate environmental impacts, per individual sampled vessel and per segment, complemented with indicators of energy efficiency and biotic resource depletion. Results and discussion: The fleet is highly fuel-efficient (120 kg fuel per tonne fish) when compared with other reported values, despite a large overcapacity that increases the impact of the construction and maintenance phases. Significant inter-annual FUI variations were observed (80.0 kg t−1 in 2008 to 210.3 kg t−1 in 2006), but no clear trend. Neither significant differences in FUI among fleet segments nor a clear effect of economies of scale were found (but FUI analysis was based on a small sample of 32 values for nine vessels, two of which had data for a single year). Only the largest vessels, featuring 242 m3 holding capacity and 850 hp engine power, were found to have lower FUI than any of the other vessels, but no statistical test could be applied to validate this difference. Differences in environmental impacts of individual vessels are mostly dominated by their relative FUI. Fuel use and, to a lower extent, maintenance are the main sources of environmental impacts. The most contributing impacts to ReCiPe single score are climate change, human toxicity and fossil depletion. The fishery’s impacts on the biotic natural resource were orders of magnitude higher than many other global hake stocks, due to overexploitation. Conclusions: The environmental impacts of the national hake fleet are relatively low during the study period, despite an overcapacity of the fleet. With the perspective of expanding its operations and obtaining better yields on the eventuality that the stock fully recovers, these impacts should decrease. More research based on additional FUI data is necessary to effectively compare the performance of these vessels with larger ones (featuring >180 m3 and >500 hp, of which nine existed in 2016) before possibly recommending their preferential use.
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